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The many challenges of making OOH programmatic

01 Nov 2019  |  David Pidgeon 
The many challenges of making OOH programmatic

OOH continues to digitise, giving brands new, shiny things to play with.

In fact, the proliferation of digital out-of-home screens has helped drive weekly digital impacts to 1.1bn across the UK, according to OOH measurement body Route.

At its last count in September, Route recorded 45% more digital screens than the same period in 2018 - 11,734 vs 8,088.

The rise means 69% of adults will now see a digital screen each week, meaning it now has wider cover than commercial radio (65%).

However, it’s linking this new digital estate – spread across multiple media owners - to the programmatic world that presents perhaps the biggest challenge.

This week VIOOH – the programmatic OOH platform majority owned by JCDecaux but open to any outdoor media owner – issued a report on the opportunities and challenges in this evolving the market. You can download it here.

During a launch event on Thursday, the results of the report – which suggest programmatic OOH will go ‘mainstream’ next year - and the conversation it generated surfaced some interesting points about the way the market is moving.

Firstly, the case study the audience was shown certainly made the client – Intel – happy and keen to develop the tech.

By using Hivestack’s DSP via VIOOH’s platform, Intel achieved “fantastic” targeting by geo-fencing particular inventory around tech conferences in a bid to reach a "niche and enterprising" audience.

“It’s very powerful,” said Steve Greatley, Intel’s UK B2B marketing manager. “Rather than casting a net and hoping for a catch, this is true programmatic targeting.”

Greatly was also impressed with the measurement and attribution qualities made available, which he said sits at the heart of the proposition. The campaign, which was about testing and learning, secured a 16% increase in brand consideration.

Whetting appetites for what awaits them in future, brands might also look forward to sequential advertising, and all the creative fun they could have with it, as well as enjoying the benefits of true automation which should deliver new efficiencies. There are also promising links with other mediums, such as mobile, with social and broadcast.

Much later down the line a programmatic OOH market (coupled with changes in other markets such as audio and TV) could help deliver the “holy grail” of a single media plan and a single audience buy. But that’s a long, long way off.

For now, there are some major challenges, burning questions and probably a lot of new skills to learn and knowledge to acquire.

For example, as MediaCom’s head of OOH trading Arran Javid notes, the sector is still nascent. The demand is not yet where it needs to be, he said, and the supply side certainly isn’t.

“Where we are now is very positive,” he said. “But it’ll be another year to 18 months before we will even know how to fully execute. There is an eagerness to get there, but right now we’re still on the launch pad.”

That said, Javid was confident that 2020 would be a pivotal year – and he’s seeing both demand and supply increase.

However, part of the problem is that media owners are fragmented, and VIOOH’s own inventory is currently confined to just JCDecaux’s - even a year on from launch and despite an open invitation for competitive media owners to join and help grow the market.

What are the chances of rival OOH business Global joining? Arguably they’re low - and Global is yet to fully define its OOH proposition since it entered the market last year with a host of surprise acquisitions.

You can be absolutely certain Global will make some sort of play – and it will likely be aligned with its current offer in the audio market given the aforementioned synergies – but we'll have to wait until next year to confirm it.

Either way, as agencies begin to evolve to cater for OOH’s new digital offerings, there is a clear request for the supply-side to make more inventory available, and more quickly.

Another issue is understanding where the budgets will come from.

Asmita Singh, senior brand manager at Kraft Heinz, said she would consider taking money out of TV once the market develops, or from the experimental test and learn budget in the interim. It could also come from OOH, she said, but others are keen that what is being offered does not cannibalise the market, but grows it instead.

Finally, the geography of the inventory is also a barrier. Urban clustering of digital screens means the programmatic proposition is great if you’re looking to reach audiences in London, but what about the rest of the UK, outside of major cities?

“We want to see a massive increase in the digital network outside of cities,” said Emily Scovell, joint head of planning at Mindshare UK.

“We are currently having to limit our innovative digital OOH planning to urban locations, but at Mindshare, we believe the audience is our number one client, and we want to unlock the same experiences and interactions for our entire audience, not just urban dwellers. Get on board and commit to unlocking this for us.”

It is good, therefore, to see VIOOH bring all the different constituents together to identify and find solutions to these challenges.

“As an industry, we need to work together,” said Jean-Christophe Conti, CEO, VIOOH.

“It is clear that programmatic trading is a multi-speed process, with some players moving more quickly than others. We need to continue to push the digital OOH ecosystem to work together and drive change to grow this medium, and truly showcase its unique capabilities to advertisers.”

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22 Nov 2019 

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